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Core Collection: Compost Toilet (2000)

This May we would like to draw your attention to the Compost Toilet (2000). This double-decker toilet stands for environmentally friendly composting. A reaction to the flush toilet we use today.  Toilets regularly show up in Joep van Lieshout’s work, not only as a functional sculpture, but also as a source of energy and method for recycling. When Joep was only eight years old, he built his own biogas installation using dog droppings. Next to the Compost Toilet in the Core Collection, there are several related works based on the composting principle. One of Joep’s other compost toilet’s in currently on display at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam as part of the regular collection.

Compost Toilet (2000)

Compost Toilet (2000)

Writer and sustainable activist Paul Kingsnorth uses the flush toilet as a metaphor for the civilization we’re living in: “you crap into a pipe, you flush it away and you never see it, you never have to deal with your own shit and then you end up deep in it.” The Compost Toilet (2000) provides you with the opportunity to deal with your own shit. The loo can be placed anywhere as no pipes or cables need to be attached, offering a low-tech yet very efficient way of recycling human waste. Straw, which is thrown in the toilet bowl, helps the composting process; the straw’s hollow stems bring oxygen into the faeces, helping aerobic bacteria to grow. The result is a source for new life.

Joep’s interest in toilets does not only derive from his interest in the human system and sustainability, but it is also a statement. Van Lieshout has always been a renegade in the art world. Instead of following the rules of just the art world, he crossed boundaries of architecture, design and science in all his work, often uplifting every day utensils to new heights as sculptures.

Most recent, he went back to his roots with the RENEGADE-series. Having participated in the art world for over three decades, Joep Van Lieshout is starting to get fed up with its mechanisms. He strongly feels that there is a misbalance in the present art world in which fashions and speculation, art fairs, auctions and fast money have become more important factors than an artistic vision.

With his toilet unit, where the client (much rather than the artist) would eventually decide upon the look of his future bathroom, Van Lieshout chose to have as little influence as possible on his artworks and thereby erased three art immanent features: uniqueness, authenticity and non-functionality.

This questioning of art in general and the artist’s role within the system, finally led to the foundation of Atelier Van Lieshout in 1994. With this step the artist removed his own name in order to create space for a non-authorship. With RENEGADE Van Lieshout defines art on his own terms. He challenges the market while giving it what it wants: Van Lieshout, the artist sometimes referred to as designer, will make or take an artwork and turn it into design by just adding a lampshade. Like one of the lamps in the exhibition reads: fuck you very much.

Click here to download the image of the Compost Toilet!